Anyone who grew up watching “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” knows there’s no one else like Fred Rogers.
His gentle presence, constant kindness and groundbreaking approach to children’s television cemented him as a small-screen fixture who remains just as beloved today, 16 years after his death, as he was when he first gained fame more than five decades ago.
So how was one of the most famous faces from the big screen able to transform into the one-of-a-kind icon for “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood”?
Tom Hanks explains that in new a behind-the-scenes featurette for the film.
“I started looking at many, many, many hours of the half-hour ‘Mister Rogers Neighborhood.’ I read the scripts, the handwritten scripts, of the shows,” the Oscar-winner said of his preparation for the role. “But rather than trying to go for a microscopic mole for mole imitation of Fred Rogers, it was a cadence, a quietness, a slowness.”
And it was little else.
Though stills from the upcoming release prove that Hanks channels Rogers to a near picture-perfect degree, that’s not the result of hours in a makeup chair. According to director Marielle Heller, the entire process of bringing Mister Rogers to life was an exercise in less-is-more.
“The aim was always authenticity,” she stressed in the clip. “It was a lot of looking at the two faces and going, ‘What do we need? We need his eyebrows to feel like Fred, and Fred had very distinct eyebrows, and a really simple wig.’ That’s it. Those two things are going to turn him into Fred, and the rest, we just want to capture the truth behind his eyes and everything that feels real and vulnerable.”
Viewers will have to wait until “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood” hits theaters Nov. 22 to see just how real Hanks’ performance feels. But until then, they can take the word of someone who’s already seen the final result.
“He looks adorable as Fred,” Joanne Rogers, Fred’s widow, said with a smile in the clip. “He looks wonderful!”